Our planet is deeply burdened. It presently harbours 390,000 tons of high level nuclear waste produced by nuclear reactors and weapons programs over the past 70 years. Spent nuclear fuel is one of the most dangerous materials on earth. Most of it is stored underwater in numerous cooling ponds throughout the world. High level nuclear waste is dangerous to all life for unthinkable periods of time. Plutonium, which is produced in every nuclear fuel rod, has a toxic lifespan of 240,000 years. With each passing year, a further 10,000 tons of spent fuel is added to the world's accumulated stores of deadly waste. In addition to the spent fuel from nuclear reactors, vast amounts of lower-level radioactive waste lie scattered in mining sites, tailings dams, undersea dumps and soil-borne contamination on every continent . . . . (Full text available in Download Options column opposite)
This essay offers an historical review of the development and utilisation of nuclear energy over the course of the twentieth century with an emphasis on the growing problem of accumulating nuclear wastes throughout the world. Particular attention is given to the recently published South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission with its recommendations that South Australia receive 138,000 tons of the world's accumulated spent nuclear fuel, and 390,000 cubic metres of intermediate level nuclear waste for eventual storage.
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